Saturday, February 20, 2010

Manufacturing poverty?

Andrew D Atkin

When humans develop a material abundance providing easy prosperity, the natural reaction is an outburst of creativity and other exploratory behaviour. This is how us humans tend to spend our surplus of time and energy when we have it, assuming there's no unusual imposition.

--An example of prosperity leading to a creative outburst could be seen in the Renaissance period. This period immediately followed the Black plague. The Black plague induced an abundance of resources as a ratio to the [reduced] population, which in turn created a more wealthy and egalitarian society, which in turn provided a notable surplus of time and energy amongst the general populace [see New Zealand Immigration in my June index for a detailed understanding of this dynamic]. It seems that the creativity of the Renaissance was, at least in part, a reaction to this somewhat short period of abundance.

So why, in our current period of great wealth within the industrialised world, do we see such little substantial creativity relative to our population size? I believe that it's because the psychological conditions of abundance have been undermined; undermined through the creation of artificial struggles of which induce us to adopt modes of operation that are disconnected from the rational status of our current material wealth. We still live like we're trying to break out of poverty, for even when our poverty does not exist.

I think that the primary mechanism responsible for inducing our artificial struggles* is compulsory government schooling, backed up by modern parental expectations which, when measured on an existential level, are clearly irrational.

I believe that schools are the core mechanism responsible for creating an enduring functional poverty, within the industrialised world in particular. Schooling conditions people to devote their libido into everything considered "constructive" as opposed to what you might call "idle explorations" that, in themselves, are not intended to meet any pressing need.

So how do schools create this new poverty? Schools motivate children mainly through fear: Fear of failing, fear of not being able to survive in the future, fear of not being able to measure-up etc. But then of course schools operate on fear. Virtually no child would voluntarily attend a school with all its compulsory and intellectually constrictive programmes, if they were not primarily driven by some kind of fear.

I think that this fear derived from the schooling process (and parents) becomes a key basis of our enduring functional poverty. We end up living like poorpers even though we are rich. It puts us into a state where we are too busy struggling to climb ladders and/or prove something to be able to just relax, explore and experiment - too afraid of what we believe might happen to us, if we don't.

So why does our society do this? Why do we get ever more government-style education when the need for it, in strictly rational terms, is reducing as a consequence of our developing prosperity?

I think it boils down to power and control (again!). I think that the need to substitute a real struggle with a false one--for when the real struggle subsides--comes from a basic insecurity within the ruling class; that is, a ruling class instinctively insecure about what the masses might turn into, should they be liberated from their typical struggle-mode. An exploratory populace can become clever, skillful and wise, and most importantly unpredictable. Traditionally, these are qualities of common people that centralised power structures have been afraid of.


I think that schools, in their essence, may simply be the state's mechanism for putting an entire society into an intellectual headlock. They achieve this primarily through depriving the individual of their natural surplus of time and energy, underpinned with fear, so as to create a form of enduring poverty manifest on the psychological level. This in turn leads to the broad suppression of the exploratory instinct (no room for this luxury for those who must struggle) and likewise the suppression of their developmental-reaction to that instinct.

Ironically, schools are promoted as doing the opposite of what I have just suggested. They are said to be all about learning and enrichment. Most of us believe this to be so, so how has the state succeeded in this propaganda? By carefully, over time, redefining what a child's development is (or should be) and by keeping quiet about the general achievements of children who grow up in alternatives to government schooling. [See my Education Notes and Modern Education in the June index].

It's my best guess that the Egyptians built those useless pyramids primarily because the ruling classes of the time wanted to keep the peons in their place, by keeping them busy and poor. Is our modern government-enforced over-preoccupation with wealth, materialism and career-orientation just a sophisticated system of "pyramid building"? At base, I think it could be as simple as that.


* Neurosis creates an 'artificial struggle' within us on a primary level, which I talk about in Understand Mental Sickness. What I am talking about in this piece is the way our neurotic drives are directed into irrational purposes, of which induce even further stress on the individual.